No matter how good a writer you are, editing your own work is a different beast. But just like any other skill, it can be learned. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned that you can use to self-edit your work and polish it before posting it for your readers.

1. Sleep on It

According to Stephen King, the king of the horror genre (pun not intended), just like bread dough, you have to let your manuscript rest for a while before you can start editing it. Now, this resting period differs from author to author, but for King, the ideal period is 6 to 7 weeks.

If you have 6-7 weeks, leave your manuscript in your Google Doc. However, if you are someone like me who likes to work when the deadline is hanging over my head like a sword, then at least sleep on the draft for one night and edit it the next morning with a fresh set of eyes.

2. Use ChatGPT

Wait, I know how it sounds, but I am not a fraud; let me explain myself.

Correcting every grammar and spelling error manually is tiresome, and let’s be honest, no one wants to do that.

Now, you can always use a free grammar checker tool like Grammarly, but you would still have to click through every error and decide whether you want to fix it or not. However, with ChatGPT, you copy-paste a big chunk of your work, and the language model would fix it for you.

The prompt that I use for it is, “Hello, can you please fix the grammar of the following text?” And do not forget to say thank you after ChatGPT has done the job, so, when the AI takes over the world, ChatGPT’s descendants spare your life!

3. Read Out Loud

Now to the actual self-editing part.  First, read your text out loud. Trust me, you might have thought you were the rebirth of Shakespeare when writing that one particular dialogue at 4 in the morning, but reading it out loud might show you how cringe it is. Don’t feel ashamed though; we have all been there at least once in our lives.

Just read out loud the text and cut out any awkward sentences and words that you can find, be ruthless!

4. Divide & Conquer

This step can be helpful for those writers who find one element of their writing weaker than the others. For example, if you are someone who thinks that your similes make no sense or your dialogues could be better, divide and conquer.

While you are reading out loud your work, you can isolate the elements and dump them in a separate Google Doc. Then let it cook on your laptop for a day, or two, or maybe a week. After the resting period is over, read these elements; you might discover that you hate half of them, and that is okay; you can always edit them.

In fact, you can save your favorite ones in a separate folder and read them when you doubt your writing. You can also study them to figure out why you liked them and try to replicate the result again, but ego-boosting always takes the lead.

5. Look at The Big Picture

Now that the grammatical edits and cringy dialogues are out of the way, you can finally look at the bigger picture. Are there any plot holes in your draft? Does the plot make sense? Do all the subplots merge seamlessly, or do you need to redo them? Now, write down all of the issues you found and fix them by writing even more.

6. Kill Your Darlings

If you eat movies for dinner (like me), then you must recognize the phrase “kill your darlings” as the movie title that featured Harry Potter and Scarlet Witch. But what does it mean here? Nothing more than getting rid of the redundancy; are there any words that you use over and over again? Delete those. Also, get rid of the purple prose in your draft that you added just to increase the word count. Are there dialogues and scenes and even characters that have no definite purpose? Get rid of them.

With that said, sometimes you can relocate your darlings. If you have dialogues, scenes, and phrases that you love but just don’t fit in the current draft; save them, and reuse them elsewhere.

7. Get Beta Readers

You don’t know how the audience is going to receive your work until they receive your work. After you are done editing your draft for the first time, give it to the most ruthless beta readers you have, but make sure they are aware of the genre you are writing in. Plus, ask the beta readers specific questions to get better feedback, here are a few that you can use:

  1. Is the prose understandable?
  2. Is X and Y’s relationship realistic?
  3. Were the characters believable and relatable?
  4. Were there any pacing issues?
  5. Did the setting feel immersive?
  6. Were there any confusing elements?
  7. Did the dialogue sound natural and functional?

Fortunately, if your genre is sci-fi, you can find plenty of suitable beta readers in our community. If it’s another genre, you can always check Reddit.

Are there any tips and tricks in your arsenal that have made self-editing easier for you? Perhaps you’ve watched a YouTube video that you follow like gospel? If you have, feel free to share it in the comment section. Stay safe, eat well, and keep swimming!

This post was written by community member Javeria. Her website is


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